The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory has been a favourite of mine since I was about 18?! (I think I was this old at least). And this book has now been read so many times that I have got creases upon creases down the spine, I really must buy a new copy to replace this weathered one, but this is just because the book and story itself captivate me and my historical love every time.
For those of you who have not heard of this book before I am going to leave the Blurb here;
The king will decide who will live and who will die; he has the power of God now.
1539. Henry VIII must take his fourth wife and the dangerous prize is won by Anne of Cleves. A German princess by birth, Anne is to be Henry’s pawn in the Protestant alliance against Rome, but the marriage falters from the start. Henry finds nothing to admire in his new queen, setting himself against his advisors and nobles to pay court to young Katherine Howard.
The new queen begins to sense a trap closing around her. And Jane Boleyn, summoned to the inner circle once more by her uncle the Duke of Norfolk, finds a fractious court haunted by the Boleyn legacy of death and deceit.
Nothing is certain in a kingdom ruled by an increasingly tyrannical king.
In his old age Henry VIII became very flippant with his temperament. He became very hard to predict as people did not know what would send him off into a rage or make him happy, for everything and just about anything appeared to be a trigger point. Henry was a very hard King to please and after his divorce from Queen Katherine of Aragon nobody in his court dared tell the King “No” so getting what he wanted was the norm.
The book itself starts in the year 1539 and ends with the Kings death in 1547, so it spreads over a good 8 years, however, a lot goes on within these 8 years. Henry takes a total of 3 different wives within these 8 years; Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr, this book however is actually based on the first two mentioned. The reason for this is as Gregory states in the back of the book in her “Authors Note” is that both Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard are the two wives that we genuinely do not know too much about, which is interesting as Katherine pretty much over rules Anne before Anne has even left court due to the Kings infatuation with her, a man who was actually old enough to be Kitty Howard’s grandfather.
Gregory gives this book as a whole a very fictional feel as she describes herself as giving her characters a “fictional account” which at first I was very hesitant about because I didn’t know at the time if that meant that she was basically making everything up? But, when I finished reading the book I could see where and why she had done this. The facts WERE true, it was just the format of being in diary form, how the characters spoke and interacted with one another and how the characters were thinking were the fictional part. You could get how they thought and felt very easily from the truly facts that are given to us as historians thought, because you yourself put yourself in THEIR shoes, if you see my meaning?
Gregory depicts the lives of both Cleves and Howard in the form of a diary, which for any of you that have read any of my previous book reviews will know that THIS is my favourite way of reading a book! Within diary form, with also the diary perspective of Jane Boleyn, the former Queen Anne Boleyn’s sister-in-law, who was actually involved with being one the many reasons for her downfall. All three together really make this book, Gregory gives the truths of the struggles of what it was really like to be a woman within the court of Henry VIII through the voices of these 3 women which I absolutely loved. Jane however intrigued me the most! For as someone who initially betrayed her husband and sister-in-law, betraying them both towards their deaths, she definitely thought about her husband and sister-in-law so much. She clearly was very jealous of their family bond, but she also wanted to join in and be a fantastic 3? She is an interested historical figure the more I read and learn about her to be fair; she had always been surrounded by wealth and court, so to marry a Boleyn man was a huge step for her. But it is known she was hesitant on her wedding day and in all fairness if what is written and known to be fact about George Jane did have every right to be wary. Her husband was never kind to her and that fact she had to abandon a child to the church due to her husband must have been ever so hard for her.
The lives of these 3 women are told so well in this book, they are all at one point or another in danger and they all would have felt how Gregory portrays them; scared. It would appear the king did not need a full on reason to want you killed, because what he said went for he believed he had the word of God spoke through him. This was a very hard and trying time for any woman to live in and I love how this is put across.
Anyway, the book over all is in my top 5 favourites! For every time I read it I fall in love with the story over and over again. So, 10/10 read and favourite for me! Please go read it if you haven’t and you’re a Tudor history lover like myself.
With love, Charlotte x